With the Republican/Tea Party Congress holding a 10 percent approval rating, Democrats have a new opportunity to take back the House and Irvine mayor Sukhee Kang leads an impressive list of Asian American candidates seeking higher office in Congress. This profile in Monday’s LA Times has the details.
Asian Americans now make up 14 percent of the electorate. Kang steered Irvine through what was arguably the toughest two terms any Irvine mayor has faced with the city emerging with a replenished reserve fund, no cuts in services to residents and a smaller government — fewer city employees than when Republicans held the council majority. Kang’s record in economic growth in tough times, public safety, healthcare for children, and assistance for Irvine’s public schools. Kang is also a rock star in South Korea and the Korean media will be at his headquarters in force on election night as he seeks to oust Congressman John Campbell. If you want a congressman who votes No on any Democratic proposal or piece of legislation and never bothers to ask voters to send him back to Washington, and if you believe Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” is a blueprint for public policy, then Campbell is your man.
If you’re looking for a proven business leader with a strong track record of success in serving the public, Kang is the one you should be voting for.
From the LA Times story:
In 1992, as he watched televised footage of immigrant shops and dreams crumble to the ground during the Los Angeles riots, he knew he “had to do something — to make connections — to people, with people, across different groups.
The father of two and owner of three shoe stores started simply. He raised money for scholarships. He signed up with the Korean American Coalition, pushing those like him to get involved in civic life and civil rights. He mobilized volunteers, helping torched Korean American businesses rebuild.
Now Kang holds court as the mayor of Irvine, just named by Money magazine as one of the 10 best places to live in the U.S. Four years into his term, and after four years as councilman, he has a higher goal: national office.
Of the 17 races, six are in California, where the U.S. Census shows Asians now make up nearly 14% of the population. Nationwide, Asians surpassed Latinos as the largest wave of new immigrants, pushing their total to a record 18.2 million, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.
In states, in counties, in cities at the grass-roots level, men, women and young people are seeing that “this can be done. That winning as an Asian is possible, especially if you can build a base of support through local office,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress.
Asian candidates have a string of success stories in Congress to build on: Joseph Cao, the first Vietnamese American elected, represented Louisiana from 2009 to 2011, and Hansen Clarke of Michigan is the first elected Congress member of Bangladeshi and African American heritage.
In November, Charles Djou will be the first candidate of Thai and Chinese descent, running as a Republican in Hawaii. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat, is the first Thai and Chinese American, mounting a challenge as a Democrat in Illinois. Chu describes Duckworth’s story as “so compelling” that voters will find her easy to remember.
Duckworth, a captain in the National Guard who piloted Black Hawk helicopters, became one of the first women to fly combat missions in Iraq. On Nov. 12, 2004, a rocket-propelled grenade hit her aircraft. She lost both legs and part of the use of her right arm in the explosion and was awarded the Purple Heart.
The OC Register also recently profiled Kang, but the story was written by staunch Republic pollster Adam Probolsky, so I was surprised to see a positive story about Kang emerge from Probolsky’s keyboard (pending fatherhood makes one appreciate good schools and a safe city I guess):
Taking office during a down economy, one of his first policy directives after being sworn into office was to lay out an ambitious financial plan that would see not a single city employee job loss, nor any forced time off without pay.
The cost for such a plan included no pay raises for city employees. More than 70 salaried positions also went unfilled, requiring existing staff to do more with less. Cost savings were found within each city department and inter-departmental staff transfers were made to make the best use of existing resources.
Mayor Kang boasts that no cuts were made to core city services and no new taxes were implemented. Having presided over four of the toughest fiscal years the city has seen, Sukhee Kang takes pride that the city’s budget is balanced and the rainy day fund is flush with cash.
I don’t recall any controversial votes, just a cordial atmosphere where we worked to protect the taxpayers.
“If five members of the City Council can put their minds together, they can make good public policy,” explained Mayor Kang, something he learned from his early days in public life.
When he decided to run for City Council in 2004 (his first foray into politics), Mayor Kang says he learned most from walking door-to-door, meeting Irvine voters and talking about what was most important to them.
Education, child care, health care and trails kept coming up in conversations. Once in office, he tackled each issue head-on and found early success, including ably negotiating for better trails in the Irvine Company’s Orchard Hills development and implementing the Irvine Children’s Health Program.
The mayor has also been vigilant about supporting Irvine schools. He says: “Regardless of what other issues I am facing, education is always high on my priority list.”
Mayor Kang has high hopes for remainder of his term.
“There will be substantial benefit to the city from approving the second phase of residential development at the Great Park,” said the mayor. “Hopefully we can maximize the public benefit with a deal that is good for the city and the developer.”
Even a hard core Republican like Probolsky has a hard time finding fault with the Kang record in Irvine. That’s why voters should send Kang to Congress. Instead of our federal tax dollars going to everywhere but here, Kang will fight for a share of federal funds for needed projects that will stimulate our local economy and improve the living conditions of voters in the district. John Campbell is a solid no vote on any tax dollars coming back to OC which forces county and local governments to pick up the slack. If Loretta Sanchez wasn’t in Congress, Irvine and Newport Beach would get no federal funds for anything.